If you’re a regular on this thing they call this series of tubes as of late (and possibly only in my personal realm of the internet, because I don’t know how big this is yet), you’ve probably seen many-a links to this article. If you haven’t read it yet, you really should. It makes you rethink your priorities in life and how you’re showing them to your kids.
It will also make you feel awful. In this technology-driven world, it’s difficult to disconnect from the Internet. In the palm of your hand, you hold–most literally–a world of information. You sit down to watch a movie with your children. Who is the guy doing this voice? I’ll IMDB it or it’ll just keep bugging me. Oh, while I’m on my phone I might as well order that thing I need to from Amazon. Wait, I should read some reviews first. Hey, didn’t a blog I read do a review on one of these? What did she have to say about it? Okay, I’ll buy it. Now, back to the movie. What’s even going on? I don’t get it. I’ll just check Facebook.
Even my mom, who I distinctly remember teaching to text a decade ago, now tells me she feels lost without her phone. Even I, right now, am ignoring my child (who should be sleeping) that is literally rolling in circles on top of me while I type this post on my WordPress app. It’s just a fact of life, right?
Well, that’s a big vague yes and no. Yes, it’s a fact of life. Unless you’re one of those few who no longer have a smart phone, you’re going to have to deal with the distraction of it. Personally, I love having my iPhone. It’s great to have something I can check my email on when Twig falls asleep in her car seat. It’s the only way I stay awake while nursing Twig back to sleep when she wakes up before I’m ready to go to bed. It’s nice to have so much information at my fingertips.
But having a smartphone doesn’t mean you have to let it rule you.
Learn to take a step away from the phone. Sure, you could do this by purposely “forgetting” it, but that’s only a short-term solution. You need to be able to coexist with your phone rather than just occasionally putting it in time out.
Turn off notifications. About a year ago, I deleted my Facebook app. At the same time I deleted Twitter and turned off notifications for pretty much everything on my phone. I turned my email down to updating manually, but later moved it to once an hour (the max on an iPhone, which seems still too frequent) because I was forgetting to check my email for days and actually missing important things. Since then I’ve reinstalled Facebook a couple of times, but I keep deleting it within a couple of days because I now find it annoying.
Do you get a little ding on your phone every time someone likes your status update? Do you really need to know they did that so immediately? Was it worth interrupting your child’s story about what they did at school? I’m guessing not. Are all your emails so urgent that they must be read and responded to the second you receive them? Do you really need to know Tom the Talking Cat misses you? If you’re anything like me, the answer is no and the notifications can be turned off.
Prioritize what gets to bug you. How many emails do you get a day? How many of those do you immediately delete without even opening them? How many minutes do you spend on this task? Well, maybe it’s time to unsubscribe. This is especially true for sale or daily deal emails, because they’re robbing you of your time and money you wouldn’t otherwise be spending.
Got an app that keeps bugging you even with the notifications supposedly off? I bet you wouldn’t miss it. Got an old email account that only gets spam you have to delete? Disconnect it from your phone. If it’s not worth the time it’s wasting, do your best to eliminate it. Be choosy about what apps you download too. Maybe if it’s wasting too much time, it should be deleted.
Find other portable hobbies. Preferably ones that are relatively mindless. This is part of the reason I love knitting. I purposely always have at least one relatively repetitive project on the needles. Then I can still watch and talk to my children, just while glancing down occasionally. If something happens and I really need to intervene, I can just drop the needles and go help, picking up where I left off when I’m done.
Knitting isn’t the only non-smartphone way to busy your mind and hands while tending small children. Try a book (though maybe not anything too riveting). Or maybe do a sudoku puzzle. Read the paper on real paper. Sure, these are all things you could do on your phone (probably all at the same time even!), but there’s a difference with choosing one thing and making that it. If you get bored of sudoku, you don’t immediately have 5,000 other games you can play. Having all the information in the world at your fingertips is a double-edged sword. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in all of the information and forget about life.
Remember that life is for living. It’s okay to put down the phone. Chances are, anything you miss won’t be so important that you can’t deal with it later. Your kids, your partner, your friends, they’re all worth your undivided attention. We don’t need to be multitasking 24 hours of the day. You can learn to coexist with your smartphone without letting it control you, and you’ll be better for it.